Talk Box

A gal and her husband came into the store yesterday looking for a replacement chain for her medical ID bracelet; apparently hers was irritating her skin. I only glanced at her charm long enough to know it was legit, mainly because I had no need or desire to know what her ailment was. It was clearly obvious.

She had a voice box (a mechanical larynx) installed in her neck. In order to communicate with us, she would hold up a wand that looked more like a flashlight than a magical tool, then she’d press a button and move her vocal chords. Whatever is left of her vocal chords.

What we heard was a poor excuse for a digital voice, circa 1983. No emotion. No inflection. No fancy french accent.

With an antique computer yelling at us from behind a calm, minorly-brokenhearted woman, it was up to us to piece it all together. It took me a full sentence to turn on my mental-translator before I was able to communicate with a gal who literally had a computer for a voice.

It was well after she and her husband shuffled out the door when I gave her more thought. I wonder what her voice sounded like 10 years ago.

I wonder if she would whisper sweet nothings in her husband’s ear. If she would yell their kids home for dinner. If she would calmly coax her kitty out of a tree. If she would holler at traffic when no one else was in the car. I wonder if she sang.

I wonder if her husband misses her voice. Between missing the communication they once had, the inflection he could read into and know what she was thinking, the old hymns she’d hum at the kitchen sink, I wonder if he merely just misses her voice; the encouragement and comfort he once found in it.

I wonder how he feels about her voice now. Is he proud of her for attempting to communicate on her own? Is he frustrated when she relies too heavily upon him for help? Does he give in and communicate for her when he shouldn’t? Has the memory of her old voice been washed away by a 1983-Steve-Jobs? Does he even remember?

I wonder.

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